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Obituary: Betty Forsyth, who led by example

Less than a month after her 76th birthday, Scottish icon Betty Forsyth died at her home in Larkhall with her daughter Susan by her side after a short illness, writes Anne Dunwoodie.

Because of the Covid restrictions for the last 14 months and people not being allowed to meet up for most of that time, her death came as a great shock to many friends and bowlers around the world.

More than half of her life had been dedicated to the bowling fraternity in one way and another – where she was ably supported by her late husband Robert.

Betty first took up the sport in 1977, joining her local Blantyre club where she quickly became a highly popular and supportive member who was always at the front of the queue in the volunteering stakes.

She served two terms as President, took on the role of Match Secretary and more recently became a valued member of the junior sections’ coaching staff.

It didn’t take her long to build a successful CV and after honing her skills, crossed the first bridge on her way up the ladder ten years later when she was selected to play for Scotland – gaining her first cap in Jordanstown in Northern Ireland in 1987 and going on to represent her country in a further 18 Home International Series.

During her intervening years from that first tentative step onto the representative ladder Betty quickly made her mark and as her record shows, she represented Scotland at four Commonwealth Games, two World Championships and four Atlantic Rim Championships.

At her first Commonwealth Games outing in Victoria in 1994 Betty played at number two in the fours with Dot Barr at lead and Liz Dickson and Janice Maxwell at the back. They returned home with bronze – with South Africa, who were returning to the fold for the first time since 1958 because of apartheid – were skipped to the gold medal by Lorna Smith (then Trigwell) – with the two forging a lasting friendship since then.

Betty was also selected for the Games in Kuala Lumpur ’98, Manchester ’02 and Melbourne ’06 – along with another departed friend Linda Brennan and also notched up her fifth successive Games appearance – this time as Ladies Team Manager, when they were held in 2010 in Delhi.

She made her World Championship debut at Leamington Spa in 1996 and at the following Championships in Australia at the Moama Club alongside Julie Forrest, Betty, Sarah Gourlay and Joyce Lindores – was dramatically beaten in an extra end by New Zealand in the chase for Fours gold.

Other golden moments came in the Atlantic Rim Championships where Betty played in 1995, 1999 and 2005, culminating in fours gold, silver and team gold across the years with one of her proudest moments coming on home territory at Ayr Northfield when, as manager – Scotland claimed the overall Team Gold medal in 2007.

Over her early years on the international scene she was an eager and attentive pupil at the feet of the then ‘guru’ of Scottish Women’s Bowls and there’s no doubt she took on board everything that Eleanor Allan drummed into her proteges.

She eventually ‘hung up her boots’ in 2006 after gaining more than 50 international caps, but not content, decided to throw her hat into the ring and manage the SWBA’s International Team, a position she upheld until retiring in 2015.

In this role Betty was able to impart her specialist knowledge – gleaned no doubt from years under the auspices of the highly respected, knowledgeable, and tough talking Eleanor Allan – who was light years ahead of her time in terms of training, psychology and tactics!

All in – a glittering career from start to finish and not content with that she unselfishly shared her treasure chest of knowledge to benefit the younger generation of bowlers

Betty was a valuable and highly respected individual in her own right and a role model to any aspiring bowler, someone who came through the ranks with passion and pride – not just an international representative ambassador – but at ALL levels of the sport and across ALL spectrums as shown by her many roles within the sport, whether it be club, national or international level.

We are all the richer for having her touch our lives – not just as a bowler, but also as a devoted family person whether it be wife, mother, gran, sister or friend.

There’s no doubt she will be sorely missed by many people but none more so that her daughter Susan and son in law Lester, grandsons Adam and Dylan, twin sister Jean and bother in law Gordon and her many friends and colleagues at Blantyre BC.

Rest easy our friend – you can stand tall – you’ve led by example.